Seth Godin on Art

This is part of the Seth Godin on Story wiki. Check out my chat with Seth, dig deeper into the art and science of business storytelling.

My favourite quote below highlights the conflict between our quest for safety and our desire to matter. This is a tension we can all understand. There’s nothing safe about art. I never felt more vulnerable than the day I published my first thriller … terrified what people might say.

But I was more scared not to do it … more scared of what I’d become if I didn’t step outside the lines.

Anyway …

I think art is the ability to change people with your work, to see things as they are and then create stories, images, and interactions that change the marketplace. So, yes, I do think you need to be an artist to market tofu, if you want to be any good at it.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? – Seth Godin (2010)

Artists understand that they have the power, through gifts, innovation, and love, to create a new story, one that’s better than the old one. Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? – Seth Godin (2010)

The artist sees the world as it is. The artist tells a story that resonates.

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? (2012) – Seth Godin.

This Might Not Work

This is a mantra of the artist. And of course, this is where the vulnerability comes from, and the fascination.

If you’re sure it’s going to work, where is the tension? “This might work” is the twin sister of “This might not work.”

Kamiwaza doesn’t mean all-powerful and perfect. If the gods were perfect, there would be no point to the myths we tell. We tell them precisely because the gods aren’t perfect—they are merely bold. The industrialist (your boss, perhaps) demands that everything be proven, efficient, and risk free. The artist seeks none of these. The value of art is in your willingness to stare down the risk and to embrace the void of possible failure.

Change is powerful, but change always comes with the possibility of failure as its partner. “This might not work” isn’t merely something to be tolerated; it’s something you must seek out.

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? (2012) – Seth Godin.

PAIN is the truth of art. Art is not a hobby or a pastime. It is the result of an internal battle royal, one between the quest for safety and the desire to matter.

V Is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone (2012) – Seth Godin

VULNERABLE is the only way we can feel when we truly share the art we’ve made. When we share it, when we connect, we have shifted the power and made ourselves naked in front of the person we’ve given the gift of our art to. We have no excuses, no manual to point to, no standard operating procedures to protect us. And that is part of our gift.

V Is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone (2012) – Seth Godin

“Art is the generous act of making things better by doing something that might not work.”

The Practice: Shipping Creative Work (2020) – Seth Godin

Do the work, become the artist. Instead of planning, simply become. Acting as if is how we acquire identity. Writing is a universal solvent for creatives. Painters, entrepreneurs, therapists, circus acts—each of us can write our story down, a permanent record of how we see the world and how we will change the world. Yes, you can do it in private, in a notebook that no one will ever see. But you will find so much more juice if you do it in public. Even if you use an assumed name. Even if you only circulate it to a few people. Knowing that the words are there, in front of others, confirms your identity. “I wrote this.” Blog every day. It’s easy, it’s free, and it establishes your identity long before the market cares about who you are and what you do. Writers write. Runners run. Establish your identity by doing your work.

The Practice: Shipping Creative Work (2020) – Seth Godin

See Also:

On Authenticity | On Average | On Challenging YourselfOn Comic Books (and life) | On Criticism  | On Intangibles | On LeadershipOn MarketingOn Tension | On Assets | On True Lies



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